Jump On It: Protecting Your Knees During High-Impact Sports

Posted on: 20 February 2015

If you're involved in sports that require lots of running, jumping, or collisions, you'll have to pay special attention to your knees. If the body is under conditioned, or if you put too much stress on the joint, you will find yourself unable to perform. Instead of heading onto the field for a championship game, you'll be heading to the operating room for reconstructive surgery. This article will help you understand why your knees need protection and how you can provide it.

An Essential Joint; A Weak Point

Your knees are amazing joints. They are constantly bending and stabilizing the legs during any type of movement. Fortunately, there are built to withstand a lot of stress and activity. However, because the knee must be flexible in order to perform its basic function, it is the weakest point in the leg. Basically, when under high pressure, the knee is more likely to be damaged than a tibia or femur bone. In fact, 10.4 million patients caw a doctor in 2010 for knee injuries. 

The reason: ligaments are easier to injure than bones. They are made from softer tissues to allow for greater range of motion and the ability to absorb some impact without pain. The most common injuries to the knee, therefore, are injuries to the ligaments. The most common knee injury is to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. Other common knee injuries include damage to the posterior cruciate ligament, patellar tendon tears, and collateral ligament sprains.

Protection And Prevention

Tendon sprains in the knee are often caused by sudden force that overwhelms the structure of the knee and causes the tendon to be stretched or torn. Examples of force that can injure knee ligaments include:

1. Slowing down from a high speed at a run. The ACL acts to keep the tibia (the main bone in the lower leg) in place. Runners should gradually reduce speed, because quickly slowing the stride with a great forward momentum can push the lower leg forward, stretching the ACL to the breaking point. If there is enough force, the ligament will tear.

2. Landing improperly from a jump. When you jump, your knees should bend deeply to help absorb the shock of your landing. If you do not bend, or if you bend with your body weight too far forward, you risk losing your balance or absorbing too much impact through the knee. The ACL could tear if you are too far forward, or the stabilizing collateral ligaments on either side of your knee could also be damaged as it tries to keep the legs aligned through such a large amount of force.

3. Falling onto a bent knee. Tackle sports are wild cards when it comes to knee injuries. Falling forward at a great speed onto a single bent knee can tear the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament). The force from the downward blow pushes the lower leg back, causing the ligament that allows you to kick a ball forward with ease to absorb the entire blow.

When you are being tackled, or if you are in the process of a spectacular wipeout, concentrate on falling softy or rolling onto your side or shoulder through the momentum of the fall instead of falling hard onto one or both knees. 

4. Rapidly changing direction. In team sports, you need to be ready to change direction and speed at the drop of a hat. However, you should always be mindful that your knees need a little bit more time to adjust to a sudden stop and change than the rest of your body. If you are running hard in one direction, and then make a split second choice to dodge to the left or right without warning, you risk tearing the collateral ligaments on either side of your knee, or spraining the ACL. When you must change direction, try to bend lower to the ground so that the entire body can absorb the momentum as you change direction, instead of just one leg. 

It's important to remember that most knee injuries are not isolated to just a single tear or sprain. Most of the time, several ligaments, bones, or cartilage are damaged. Torn ligaments cannot heal without reconstructive surgery by an orthopedic surgeon. It can take several months of rehabilitation before your knee is ready to be involved in playing sports again. 

Visit http://www.towncenterorthopaedics.com to learn more.